When James Pressgraves, M.D. left Magee to attend Belhaven University and pursue a degree in medicine he did so with the express intent of returning home to practice. He reached that goal this past August when he opened his office on the first floor of Tuscan Towers.
Dr. Pressgraves grew up in the Shady Grove area on land that has been in the family for five generations. His great grandfather purchased it after serving in World War II. He has fond memories of growing up there with his family, especially memories of his grandfather, farming, fishing and hunting.
Dr. Pressgraves graduated from Simpson County Academy in 2007 with a dream of a career in medicine firmly planted since his early days of high school. As a child and young man he always enjoyed complex things like puzzles. James would take things apart only to put them back together. His family encouraged him to choose something to stimulate him intellectually, even suggesting medicine. He studied astronomy and physics. Then he took biology. “I really started to see how complex the human body is and well designed it actually is. Even today we are unraveling things we had no clue about before. I figured out I could use my love for puzzles and complex systems to get the intellectual stimulation I was looking for out of a career but also really help people in the process. That was a marriage of two things that really made sense to me.”
He went to the University of Mississippi Medical Center for his medical degree and completed his residency at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg. Dr. Pressgraves interviewed all over the south and the northeast before choosing Forrest General. “It had comparable education to even some of the more prestigious ones you hear about. I felt like I would be well served to go there from that standpoint as well as close proximity to home to be around family if they needed something.”
Dr. Pressgraves met his wife Jean while they were in college at Belhaven but knew Magee would become home. They both made sacrifices during his three year residency as he commuted from their home rather than rent or purchase in Hattiesburg. That in turn proved beneficial as Jean desired to stay home once son Alex was born. She loves being home as does Dr. Pressgraves. “I’ve loved it for her and Alex having that bonding time. There’s no one quite like yourselves taking care of your children. Then Covid hit and we were very thankful not to have to worry about the daycare thing.” Alex will soon turn 5.
Initially Dr. Pressgraves thought he would become a cardiologist; however, once he found out the lack of balance between family and practice he had second thoughts. Working 80 to 90 hours weeks was not conducive to a well balanced life in Magee. “I first got my love for family medicine from Dr. (Karen) Bruce right down the street in Collins. She takes medical students. As a medical student you have to rotate through a family medicine clinic in the rural parts of Mississippi. I worked with her as a third year student and really fell in love with family medicine. Once I decided family medicine was what I wanted to do I always knew I wanted to come back home to practice. The community itself… I really love the area. It’s the quintessential United States small town. You have the feeling you know pretty much everyone at least through certain individuals. I like taking care of salt of the earth good folks that work hard. It was always the goal to come back.”
While the doctor does not farm, Jean had another goal of raising chickens for eggs which has also come to pass. They decided to wait till things settled down and about a year ago she said it was time for chickens. He repurposed his grandfather’s feed shed as a chicken coop. Dr. Pressgraves is not above donning the collection apron to gather eggs with Alex. “Here me and Alex go to the chicken coop to collect these eggs. He’s picking them up and putting them in the slots in the apron. Those are the moments you remember when you’re 90; they make me never question what I chose as far as family medicine.”
He continued, “When you’re younger money makes the world go round and that solves everything. That’s the naïve way of thinking. I had to learn that. To me there are so many more important things than that. The most important things that you have are the memories you have with your family and those moments you get to share with them. That’s top of my priority list now.”
Dr. Pressgraves is affiliated with Hattiesburg Clinic and while he entertained several offers it was the best fit. “Twenty years ago it was much easier to keep the business afloat than it is now with all the reimbursement rates and different things. That’s one of the reasons I really like Hattiesburg Clinic. It is physician owned. Only physicians sit on the board. It’s a real well run organization. Beyond that I’m able to practice more medicine and not have to focus as much on the business side of things. Some decisions I have to be involved in but by and large I do what I came here to do, and that’s practice medicine.”
“I’m glad Hattiesburg Clinic had enough faith in me to let me pioneer one for them up here. I’m exceedingly happy to be home and practicing. This is the fruition of a very, very long term goal to get in this chair in Magee where I am now. I’m thrilled to be here. I don’t plan to go anywhere. I tell all my patients as long as ya’ll want me here and keep the business afloat we will keep going!.”